The parents of a teenager who was murdered by a rival following an online feud have warned of the dangers of social media on the first anniversary of their son’s death.
Josh Hall was 17 when he was stabbed to death by Harley Demmon, who was just 15 at the time of the attack on a sports ground in Cam, near Dursley in Gloucestershire.
There had been hostility between the two boys on Snapchat and other platforms over insulting comments towards a girl that Demmon mistakenly believed Josh had made.
The pair had arranged to meet and “work out their differences”, but Dennom was armed with a knife and stabbed Josh six times in a confrontation that lasted just two minutes.
Demmon has denied murder but was found guilty in November last year and jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 14 years by a Gloucester Crown Court judge.
On the first anniversary of her son’s death, Josh’s mother, Kristy Hall, said: “I miss him with every beat of my heart.
“My house is not well, my family is not well, my life is not well.”
In an interview with Gloucestershire Police posted on the force’s YouTube channel, Ms Hall said: ‘You go from a keyboard to a real-time situation very, very quickly and you could harm your life, your life from someone else – just think about what you’re doing.
“Think about the impact of your words, your actions, on others. If you’re in a situation where you’ve gone this far, it’s never too late to stop, it’s really not the case.
“If Harley had had that ‘I don’t take my knife’ day, Josh would still be here.”
Ms Hall said social media gave Demmon “access” to Josh.
Paying tribute to her son, Ms Hall said: “Josh was amazing – very cheeky, very funny, lots of charisma, you couldn’t be mad at him for long because he would just make you laugh.”
Mike Hall, Josh’s father, said social media allowed a situation to quickly escalate to a point ‘where a young man felt he had to take a knife and stab someone to prove he was as violent as he told everyone he was”.
Mr Hall continued: “Parents probably need to have a better level of understanding of what these social media platforms are and how they work.
“Snapchat in particular seems to be teens’ preferred method of communication.”
In an appeal to parents of teenagers, Ms Hall said: “Check with your children, just check with them and look for any red flags, watch and act on them – [that] would absolutely be my advice.
When asked how she wanted people to remember her son, Ms Hall replied: ‘Like Josh – so caring, funny, cheeky. He always had time for everyone, he has an amazing smile and he was overall nice.
“And that’s how I want to be remembered, as the kind person he was and the impact he had on his peers and on his friends.”
After his conviction, Judge Chamberlain decided to lift an anonymity order protecting Demmon’s identity.
As he handed down his sentence, he said: “You were teenagers in Gloucestershire, but you spoke in the patois of urban gangsters.
“You wanted to be fearless when in fact you were deeply anxious.
“You have adopted the characters of hardened and fearless criminals.
“Perceived slights to honor or status have been met with promises of violence.”